Baltic States
June 24, 2003 GMT
Touring The Baltic States

To be perfectly honest - it was with a strange feeling that I approached the Baltic States. I had not met anybody who had been there and somehow the fact that these countries became independent from the former Soviet Union in 1990/91 had not really registered with me.

Since I want to go to all the capitals, Vilnius (Lithuania), Riga (Latvia) and Tallinn (Estonia), a natural first stop is Vilnius. I cross the border just north of Augustow, Poland and I have to pay an "entrance fees". Before the Lithuanians let a foreign motor vehicle enter their country, the driver is required to show a Lithuanian insurance policy. A sales office is conveniently placed next to the border guard. All other countries thus far have accepted the international motor insurance card issued by my insurance company. But okay - I give some extra points for "creative cash generation".

So, well-covered by the new insurance, I approach Vilnius - and dislike it right away. The city is very busy, a lot of road construction, it is getting late and I have problems finding accommodation. I end up in a motel near one of the major motorways. Not great but....

The next morning I just want to get on and I skip a tour of the city. If there is one idea that I have had about all Baltic States, it is that there should be great coast line. So I am heading off to the beach - and end up in a great seaside resort, Palanga. There is some irritation at the small hotel when I check in: the director does not like motorcycles in front of the hotel and I have to move it to a parking lot close by. The guard at that place in turn is very nice. He seizes the opportunity to practice the German, which he learned at school.


The gigantic (600 m long) board walk on the Palanga beach at sunset"

The next day I pay a visit to a place that I had wanted to see for a long time: the Curonian Spit ("Kurische Nehrung"): a 97 km long, thin peninsula, more than half of it under Lithuanian jurisdiction, which separates the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon ("Kurisches Haff"). Great landscape and beaches -included in the UNESCO World Heritage as cultural landscape object.

I particularly like the large dune in the middle of the "spit", near the village of Nida:


"Impressions from the Sahara? - No, a beach of the Baltic Sea"

Somehow this visit determines the course for the next couple of days. I decide to follow the coastline into Latvia and on. For a change, the border crossing into Latvia was almost pleasant. Very business-like border guards in a neat, new guard building.

My next stop is Liepaja - but somehow this is another city that does not appeal to me: too busy, I do not feel comfortable and I decide to go on towards Ventspils, further north on the coast. I have to leave the main roads and have to use smaller country roads. No a lot of traffic, but a very poor tarmac, which lowers my "cruising speed" considerably. I find a small campground with direct access to the beach and decide to stay for the night.

With me on the campground is a group of about twenty young people which I believe to be students. One of the group approaches me the next morning as I prepare to leave. As it turns out, the group belongs to the Latvian subsidiary of a major international advertising agency, who have come to this place for some corporate offside, to build the team spirit.

Andris Blaka, a senior member of that group, outs himself a fellow motorcycle aficionado (Kawasaki KLE 500). He knows the coast line and suggests that I follow the coast up north. Just north of the campground, the paved road turns into a gravel road, some 55 km of it. Before talking to Andris, I had already resigned myself to returning to the main road to Riga and wave the idea of following the coast. Andris insists, though, that the quality of the road is such, that it should be unproblematic even for the loaded BMW, and I decide to go for it.


"Following the coastline - on gravel"

The gravel stretch turns out to be manageable. I get to the northernmost point of this Latvian peninsula, a small place called Kolka: two dozen houses and a gas station. I count myself lucky, because by then my gas is running low and I was beginning to get nervous. So, back on paved roads and tank filled up it starts to rain hard. Tough. I start looking for a place to stop and to let the rain clouds pass by.

The next place I see has a KTM LC 640 Adventure parked in front of it. I take it a sign (you do not see very many motorcycles in Latvia), stop and meet Dzintars Baltais in the restaurant. He is on a trip along the coast in the opposite direction - albeit with a difference: he prefers to ride along the beach whenever possible. Sounds interesting, but I do not find it too hard to resist steering the heavy BMW onto the beach.


"Dzintars Baltais and his KTM on the way to the beaches"

After about an hour or so, the rain has stopped and we move on. I head for Riga and spend couple of days enjoying the great scenery of the historic city center:



"Two great sights in the historic part of Riga"

The visit of Riga marks the end of my stay in Lativa and I move on to Estonia. The border crossing is easy and friendly. "Big skies" are the welcoming scenery:


"Big Skies over Estonia"

Before I had left for my trip, I had been advised to got the Estonian island of Saaremaa. On the way there I stop in yet another seaside resort Pärnu. I am staying only for one night but by chance I find a small Bed & Breakfast place. The people are very friendly and even make some room in the family garage for the BMW.

In order to get to Saaremaa, I have to get onto a ferry. It is only a short, 20 minute trip, but very enjoyable. The island is about 90 km in diameter and much larger than I had thought. I have already booked a ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki and I can spend only 2 days on this beautiful island. I stay on a very nice farm that has been converted into a Bed & Breakfast place. I explore the eastern part of the island where one sees many old windmills, but miss out on the city of Kuressaare with its medieval castle.

From here I ride up to Tallinn where the ferry to Helsinki is waiting. I find another historic city center and - this time more importantly - a small traditional coffee shop (super cappuccino and pastry!!!), which, in a quiet corner, has two Internet computers. A true "Internet Café". I go to this place on two days an finish my trip report on Poland.

Day two of my stay in Tallinn, marks the end of my tour through the Baltic States. The ferry for Helsinki is leaving in the afternoon.


"Safely tied up for the passage to Helsinki

After almost two weeks in the Baltic States, I had completely forgotten about my initial reservations. I always felt safe and welcome. I enjoyed being at the coast, the beaches in particular. Everywhere, people were friendly, open and made every effort to speak either German or English. In all Bed & Breakfast places, campgrounds and restaurants you're bound to meet someone who would be able to help you. - In the end it I really wondered why I had waited so long to visit this part of the world......

More to follow.

Posted by Heiko Neumann at 09:13 AM GMT

NEW! HU 2015 Motorcycle Adventure Travel Calendar is now available! Get your copy now for some terrific travel inspiration!

HUGE, 11.5 x 16.5 inches, beautifully printed in Germany on top quality stock! Photos are the winning images from over 600 entries in the 9th Annual HU Photo Contest!

Horizons Unlimited 2015 Motorcycle Adventure Travel Calendar.

"The calendar is magnificent!"

"I just wanted to say how much I'm loving the new, larger calendar!"

We share the profit with the winning photographers. YOU could be in the HU Calendar too - enter here!

Next HU Eventscalendar

See all events


HU DVD Autumn Special!

Take 40% off Road Heroes Part 1 until October 31 only!

Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers Peter and Kay Forwood (193 countries two-up on a Harley); Dr. Greg Frazier (5 times RTW); Tiffany Coates (RTW solo female); and Rene Cormier (University of Gravel Roads).

The first in an exciting new series, Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers."Inspiring and hilarious!"

"I loved watching this DVD!"

"Lots of amazing stories and even more amazing photographs, it's great fun and very inspirational."

"Wonderful entertainment!"

Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'HEROES' on your order when you checkout.

Scottoiler automatic chain oilers. The most important accessory for your next motorcycle adventure!

Renedian Adventures

Renedian Adventures

What others say about HU...

"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA

"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada

"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia

"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders

contest pic

10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!

NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!

HU 2014 T-shirts now in!

Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!

What turns you on to motorcycle travel?

Global Rescue, WORLDwide evacuation services for EVERYONE

Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!

New to Horizons Unlimited?

New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!

Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.

Susan and Grant Johnson Read more about Grant & Susan's story

Membership - help keep us going!

Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.

Books & DVDs


All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.

Motorcycle Express for shipping and insurance!

Motorcycle Express

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!

Story and photos copyright ©

Sorry, you need a Javascript enabled browser to get the email address and dates. You can contact Horizons Unlimited at the link below. Please be sure to tell us WHICH blog writer you wish to contact.

All Rights Reserved.

Contact the author:

Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.

Hosted by: Horizons Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website!
You can have your story here too - click for details!